Last year I was invited by Kim Lenox, to present at a San Francisco IxDA event that took place at the IDEO’s offices, and at that event I talked about a process diagram that I created for Adaptive Path. In this post, I’ll share that diagram, and a slideshare that outlines how the diagram was created with the very process it illustrates. I also want to give special thanks to Jesse James Garrett who worked closely with me on the development of this diagram, it would not have been possible without his insights and ideas.



Process Diagram

One of the challenges in coming up with this design, was that the best design processes are flexible, iterative, and agile. So how do you diagram for a moving target? The design addresses this in two ways. First, it features internal loops, or pathways, that allow it to represent the iterative nature of the design process. In other words, it is hard to know in advance how many times you’ll have to go through the prototyping and testing cycle, but you can know where the forks in the road are. Second, the diagram embeds one convergence/divergence diamond process inside another, rather that putting them in sequence, which is often the case with other diagrams I have seen. I should clarify, that this diagram actually has three diamonds, with one in sequence and the other embedded. The first diamond is unique in that the top half is not truly generative because it is about defining the opportunity space, and creating an inventory of what is currently in that space. Thus the “discover” and “gather” cycle.

What is a convergence/divergence diamond? In the diagram above, the top half of each diamond illustrates a generative process where you might, for example, generate ideas. The bottom half of the diamond represents a convergent process that serves to distill, combine, or select from the set of ideas generated in the top area. For this reason, I show the convergent section as “imagine possibility”, while the bottom half about “analyzing patterns”. The process of analyzing patterns is a comparative analysis to understand similarities and differences between the ideas. What ideas overlap? Where are the gaps? Etc.

Say you are trying to make a new wallet, here’s what the process might look like step by step. I’ll start with the first diamond and assume that you’ve got your client relationship stated already:

  1. Diamond #1
    1. Diverge: do discovery to understand how “wallets” are defined in the marketplace
    2. Diverge: gather examples for the market
    3. Diverge: repeat until you have a representative sample of the territory and have set boundaries
    4. Converge: look for similarities and differences within the set you’ve collected
    5. Converge: set goals for how your product will sit in the market space (relative positioning)
    6. Proceed to a discussion of the opportunity space
  2. Diamond #2
    1. Diverge: articulate the challenge and discuss possible solutions
    2. Diamond #3: initial cycle
      1. Diverge: move from your articulation of the challenge to imagining possible solutions
      2. Converge: look for similarities and differences within the set you’ve collected
    3. Converge: define one potential solution
    4. Converge: make a prototype based on your definition
    5. Diamond #3: iterate and repeat until you have prototypes which it can be evaluated
      1. Diverge: move from your articulation of the challenge to imagining possible solutions
      2. Converge: look for similarities and differences within the set you’ve collected
    6. Diverge: change perspective by exploring the challenge in a new way. For example, if you’ve been thinking about the wallet in a utilitarian context, try thinking of it as a fashion accessory, a status symbol, a self-expression, etc.
    7. Converge: look for similarities and differences within the prototypes you’ve made
    8. Define: articulate the most successful solution
    9. Hone: make a higher fidelity prototype and refine definition
    10. Make: your final wallet

Here’s the presentation deck that explains how the diagram was developed using this process:

Here are some additional design process diagrams, that were kindly forwarded my way by Jon Littell at Hot Studio and others. Plus, here is a link to a great report on the Design Council’s website that shares research that they conducted into different processes being used at eleven global firms.

Thanks, and I look forward to your feedback. If you’d got other diagrams that you’d like to share, I’ll add them to this post!

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2 Comments to “A Design Process Diagram”

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